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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

April 14, 1996|Susan Reynolds

TREADWELL Photographs by Andrea Modica, essay by E. Annie Proulx (Chronicle Books/Constance Sullivan: $40; 85 pp.). Working with an 8-by-10-inch view camera, Andrea Modica took the first photograph in this collection (above) in 1986 in Treadwell, N.Y., population 200. Over the next 10 years she photographed Barbara (right), though not all of these pictures were taken in Treadwell nor are they all of this mysterious little girl. The collection of black-and-white plates is bursting with questions but they almost force the viewer to take them at face value and to not impose judgments on the children or their circumstances. One is tempted by the Diane Arbus-like quality of some of the photographs to feel sorry for the children, to feel that they are victims, yet in others their sheer organic integration with their surroundings and the abandonment of their bodies (despite, in Barbara's case, being severely overweight) conveys a kind of ease and freedom that would be polluted by sentiment or judgment. "We look and wonder," writes E. Annie Proulx in her introduction, "are they sheltered or imprisoned, resigned or straining against the hold, is the clasp tender, is the bathrobed child prevented from hearing something dreadful, is the other seeing something that can never be forgotten."

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